Corp Comm Connects

Community garden grows friendships, fights food insecurity

London & Main Community Garden in Newmarket donates 15 to 20% of its weekly harvest to the community fridge and is hoping to expand in an effort to donate more
Oct. 16, 2023
Rob Paul

Tucked away on a quiet part of Main Street North in Newmarket is the London & Main Community Garden where volunteers can be found hard at work.

But to them it isn’t work, it’s a chance to connect with one another while trying to help fight food insecurity and turn a once defeated plot of land into a vibrant and thriving garden.

“About two or three years ago, it was nothing like this, it was barely taken care of,” said Newmarket resident and garden volunteer John Bare. “It was probably half the size before. It’s been a lot of people putting in a lot of time.”

With about 30 volunteer members, the garden has led to long-lasting friendships and support for others who may not have many people in their lives.

“We’re all in it and it makes you feel good,” said Bare. “It’s a really close group and that’s what it’s all about, finding people that you can connect with.”

The garden has helped some members with loneliness and others with their mental and physical well-being, all while helping to address food insecurity.

“There are families who come here and leave with bags,” said volunteer Manon Azar. “And we take 15 to 20 per cent of our harvest every week and bring it to the community fridge. When I go there the next morning, there's nothing left.”

Azar said what she and everyone working on the garden want to do is expand the garden to provide more to those in need next year.

“We’ve fertilized and made the beds bigger,” she said. “So next year I’m expecting at least a 50 per cent increase in production. We should be able to feed 100 families right from here.”

The York Region Food Network helps to co-ordinate the garden and they said it’s been the most successful year for the garden to date.

“Largely it’s because people feel connected to the community through the garden,” said Jessica Tong, urban agriculture co-ordinator, York Region Food Network. “There’s really great work being done here.”

With seven community gardens co-ordinated by York Region Food Network throughout York Region, Tong thinks London & Main’s is so successful because it isn’t allotment style.

“Allotments have their own plot,” she said. “Here, it’s a collective garden where everyone works together on the entire space. We tend to find a lot more community building happens when we have collective gardens.”

The community garden will be hosting a Halloween Party later this month with games for kids, candy prizes, and they’re hoping to have a fire pit for marshmallows. They hope to show their support for the community with the party, while also educating about the importance of the garden and potentially finding more volunteers.

Part of the reason they’re hosting the party is because they received funding through a grant.

“We have no funding, no donations, and we’re not able to sell our vegetables,” said Azar. “So we have to find creative ways to raise money. We need resources to grow more food, so through the grant, we’re able to buy stuff like hay bales for the party and we can recycle the hay to cover our crops.”

The Halloween Party will be on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 4 to 7 p.m. at London & Main Community Garden.